Reviving the Filipino Elderly Wellbeing Project

They say enthusiasm and positive energy are contagious. Especially in the case of the Filipino Elderly Wellbeing Project, I would definitely agree.

Little did I know a casual chat over coffee with Frank would move into some community mobilizing in a short matters of days.

Some of you may know that some of my work and research is with Filipino skilled workers and Filipino youth. After hearing about some of the community-based research happening on Filipino elderlies/seniors through Frank, I was happy to get involved in reviving the Filipino Elderly Wellbeing (FEW) Project. Who would have known it would’ve led to an impromptu deputation at a Town Hall meeting, then at Toronto’s City Hall?

Much has happened since my deputation. On January 19, 2016, Frank Villanueva, Fritz Pino and I hosted a community meeting to revive the project. The slides of our presentation can be found here.
Excited to share more details with you soon!

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sleepless nights & the stress of scholarship

It’s 5 am & I just finished reading “Being ‘Lazy’ and Slowing Down: Toward decolonizing time, our body, and pedagogy.”

In a culture of performativity, rapid communication, and mobility, slowing down seems to be the antithesis of what needs to happen in the academy. Slowing down, or decolonizing time, is about reconnecting to our embodied selves and nurturing ‘depth’ in our work for equity and social justice in the academy, and about improving our quality of life and work… slowing down is about embodying alternative personhoods in the learning environment, remaining mindful of how a dominant concept of time has hijacked our every day lives. Unfortunately, while our minds are zipping, and our bodies are dragging behind trying to keep at pace, we are losing our spirit, and soon are left to ponder about our spirits when we are lying inour hospital or death beds. (Shahjahan, 2014, p. 12)

Zooming out, slowing down & going back to sleep.

Reference

Shahjahan, R. A. (2014). Being ‘Lazy’ and Slowing Down: Toward decolonizing time, our body, and pedagogy. Educational Philosophy and Theory, (ahead-of-print), 1-14. Read it here on Academia.edu

safe spaces on campus: reflecting on recent events & media coverage of Ryerson’s Racialised Students’ Collective

I was a little shocked when this story broke on Friday via the Ryersonian, “White students barred from funded RSU student group event.”

Talk about a sensational title.

Two students were barred from covering an event for racialized students. Okay.

“It felt really bad… kind of embarrassing,” Knope said. “If their goal in these meetings was to end racialization then it needs to be something everybody is involved in. If some people are causing the problems, they need to know. Grouping yourself off… is not going to accomplish anything.”

I remember sitting at my desk on Saturday, struck dumb in front of my computer. Earlier this week, I was at a powerful talk with Dr. Kathy Absolon from Wilfred Laurier, on how we bring the [racialized] self into the academy. What I mean by powerful — I was in tears when I asked her to reflect on her experiences after-the-fact, as I’m dealing with what feels like a painful negotiation of research and service to my community, while navigating a space so colonial & engaging in practices that feel so neoliberal and counter to my values and beliefs.

So when I read this article, I felt a range of emotions. Anger and frustration yes, disappointment… but it also revitalized my passion and energy to continue the work I’m doing in anti-oppressive education, critical pedagogy, and communication activism pedagogy.

This story has been picked up by Reddit and other news outlets. Watch the video in this Global News article to see the progression in the student reporter’s perspective.

“It’s a public space and it’s funded by the school and I think that in a perfect world everybody should be let into all meetings but I haven’t been through the same issues, I can’t say I’ve been through the same issues as racialized students at our school,” she said.

As someone working & studying at Ryerson, I know we’re at this crucial time – various groups have been building momentum, space, and community for antiracism and antioppressive work. I’ve been part of various conversations and communities for faculty and staff & while that’s been amazing … when it comes down to student support and community, we have so far to go. This hits so painfully close to home.

FURTHER READING

Read this opinion piece by Ryerson student Aeman Ansari: We need to respect safe spaces

Photo via Columbia Spectator

Sharing UofT professor’s note to student re: the YorkU/UofT strike

It’s a very busy week for me… but this came across my Facebook feed this morning & I wanted to share this (and record it for future reference):

U of T professor at the Women and Gender Studies Institute explains to her students why she has moved their class off campus in solidarity with the ongoing strike:

“I want to take a moment to explain why we are holding our class off campus this week and why it is about more than physically crossing a picket line. My area of research is how people learn about social justice, inequity, democracy, participation, how they become active in the world. And what I know is that how you experience the world matters immensely in that process. How you experience moments such as the strike really does matter.

Right now, the University, like any other employer, is producing a very important piece of ideology. By ‘ideology’ I mean the message that is being communicated to students, faculty, workers, and the broader community is that business as usual can continue at the university despite the fact that a large portion of our teaching staff has had to walk off the job to protest their working conditions. That message is also meant to communicate to us the value of their work; that their work is of so little consequence that we can continue on as if their absence means nothing and is not felt in our daily reality. I know that’s not true, and probably you know that’s not true as well.

But there is something profoundly more insidious and disturbing to me in this message. That is the message that we should not be disrupted or inconvenienced by the suffering of other people, by the inequity that others must face every day. That just because they struggle with poverty and have had to go on strike to demand recognition from their employer, it should not disrupt our business. But it is a disruption, it is a huge disruption. It is a disruption to our learning, to our lives, and, very importantly, to the covenant between a school, its students, and its teachers. It is not just a disruption, it is rupture, a tearing apart. Look at what is being torn apart. Look at who is being torn apart.

I have moved our class because I prioritize your learning. I know that how you [my students] experience this will be very important in how you learn about it, and I don’t want you to have the experience that there should be no disruption. Whatever happens around you, even if it doesn’t happen to you, we should not seek to turn away from disruption. We, as teachers in this university, should not teach you that you can look away from what is happening in this world to other people; that you can just avoid it, and it has no meaning in your life beyond a bureaucratic nuisance or that what is also at stake here is your education.

When these things happen, when your teachers go on strike, when an innocent young person is shot by the police, when a woman disappears and is found in a ditch, when we drop a bomb, we should be and feel disrupted. We should reflect on that disruption; we should learn from it. This is part of how we learn to be in the world as decent human beings who have an eye to the humanity of others. We cannot go on with business as usual. So, we are here, off campus, because I prioritize learning that takes humanity and social life seriously.”

 

Image: Juan Monroy

New graduates & the ‘job market’: why is it about ‘me-me-ME’?

Sharing an article in the Toronto Star: University degree. Check. A job? Still searching. This is one part of a 4-part series on ‘Faces of Inequality.’

As a student at Western University, student government leader and peer mentor Adam Smith could easily be described as dynamic, engaged, and dedicated.
But eight months after graduating with a double major in sociology and criminology he’s back living in his parent’s Ajax home, trying to avoid being defined by a whole new set of adjectives.
Young. Jobless. Disposable.
“I’m frankly embarrassed that I don’t have a job already,” he says. “I feel like I’m a good worker, I have a lot to offer companies. But because I haven’t been able to connect it yet, I feel personally embarrassed.

I don’t dismiss the plight of new grads struggling to find jobs. When we graduate, I think our focus tends to be on me ‘me-me-me.’ We must not forget that there are many people who face challenges and barriers we can only imagine. Sure, completing a university education isn’t easy… but there are many people who don’t even get that opportunity.

Musing here. Forgive me. For me, education involves our collective efforts… using our brains, hands, & hearts to work with communities to identify causes, build solutions, & speak up and out.

How do we move the university student’s focus and vision from the individual to community/society?

Do you have to be poor to work for the poor?

This morning, a friend and colleague posted on Facebook about some of the tensions he experiences as a community activist. Without posting the exact status, his words hinted to multiple issues in social justice work: making enough money, having enough influence, working too many hours, etc.

In response to this, I posted this excerpt from Carmel’s McConnell’s book.

As an activist in my twenties I believed for a long time that having cash was an inherently bad thing. That I couldn’t justify having personal comfort in terms of a nice place to live, or decent clothes while others lived in poverty. My duty – I thought – was to change the world and that could be done only while wearing clothes from thrift stores and jumble sales.

Then I read something about how your duty is to help the poor, not join them in their poverty. And it struck me that the time I was spending just trying to survive was time that I could be using more effectively to make changes in the world. So I changed how I thought about earning a good wage and got a great job… and, suddenly, I was able to do loads more… I found that by thinking different thoughts about money I was able to go from being poor and angry to tired to being relatively rich and calm and only tired because I chose to work hard on something that matters… And the best thing is by working from the heart and being passionate about social change and business success I’ve deposited both hard cash and moral dollars.

Spiritual and material enrichment.

– Change Activist: make big things happen fast by Carmel McConnell.

A penny for your thoughts? Would love to have some dialogue on this via my blog comments!

Photo by Tyheem Uno.

May 26 PTAC event – photo & reflection

Can you point me out in this sea of Filipino educators? 

Photo credit: Mogi Mogado

I recently joined the Philippine Teachers Association of Canada (PTAC). Sat in on their annual workshop for internationally trained teachers/aspiring educators.

This was my first time meeting a large group of internationally trained, Filipino teachers. I’ve often heard first-hand about the struggles of new Canadians trained in other professions (medicine, engineering, architecture). Before May 26, I can’t say I’ve met many who are educators. The K-12 job market for teachers here in Ontario is arguably grim – imagine the additional challenges in obtaining certification/recognition of one’s credentials plus transitioning to a new country. Amid the optimistic and encouraging panelists, many of the people sitting by me shared their difficult lived experiences and contexts. Learn to teach French when still finessing the art and science of communicating in English? Hunt down previous employers and contact oversea registrar offices while working full-time/overtime to make ends meet? Definitely not easy. I sat in relative silence and was humbled as I recognized my own privilege. Being trained locally, I am a native English speaker with virtually no barriers to certification and arguably employment. I could feel the communal passion for education and love for teaching/learning.

As new graduates from Ontario Faculties of Education, we are often encouraged to remain positive and optimistic in this difficult job market. To me, our challenges seem relatively minor by comparison…

PTAC President Tony  A. San Juan wrote an article on the event here.

 

“Newcomers baffled by our system” 2007 to today

This article in the Toronto Star by education reporter Kris Rushowy was printed in 2007.  This is nothing new & actually, nothing has changed.

Newcomers baffled by school system

Excerpt:

Middle Eastern parents wonder why their children don’t get more homework. Russian parents might expect weekly reports from teachers. Some Pakistani parents find it rude to have to make an appointment to talk to the teacher.

For the country’s largest and most diverse school board – and others around Ontario with large numbers of immigrants – it’s a constant learning curve to help newcomer parents adapt to this country’s education system.

But they could be doing a better job – and it’s critical that teachers and parents get talking because children of recent immigrants drop out, fail, are suspended or streamed into non-academic courses in disproportionate numbers, Ryerson University professor Mehrunnisa Ali told a Toronto District School Board parent conference on the weekend at Scarborough Civic Centre.

Full article here.

Interestingly enough, I am the only candidate who speaks about the issues and needs of newcomer & immigrant (first-generation) students and families.  From the shortfalls of our ESL & settlement worker programs, proposing an alternative school to specifically help these students integrate into our Canadian educational system and society, to knowing full well TDSB needs to improve on their training for teachers in the field of cultural diversity/responsiveness… Newcomers and first-generation Canadians make up 78% of our population and we need innovative ways to meet their needs.

Vote for me, Monica Batac, #1 on the ballot, someone who understands the diverse needs of our students, schools, and communities.

*M

Media Coverage re: Sex Education, Bill 13 & disclaimer

Here is another recent article from our 1st all-candidates meeting.

http://www.torontoobserver.ca/2012/02/22/scarborough-agincourt-school-trustee-candidates-discuss-anti-bullying-legislation/

Disclaimer: The journalist focuses in on one topic, however does not make clear distinctions between the proposed Sex Ed curriculum and anti-bullying legislation, “Bill 13”. I only spoke in reference to the Sex Ed curriculum, the original question. Most candidates spoke of Bill 13.

Excerpt with clarifications added:

Monica Batac, a candidate and an educator, agreed that sexual education has to be approached carefully.

“Do I believe we need to create a curriculum that provides support for all students and make them feel safe? I do,” she said. “But we need to bring about this curriculum in a sensitive and appropriate way.”

Batac said in her conversations during the campaign, she saw that many parents are concerned about the curriculum change that [the province re: Health & Physical Education, specific to Sex Education] would bring.

“When it was proposed in 2010 at a provincial level, there were parents who removed their kids from our public schools and put them in Catholic schools because they had no idea in terms of this implementation,” she said.

Any questions, feel free to send me an email at monica@monicabatac.com

 

Newcomer Families in Scarborough-Agincourt – No vote, no voice?

Four days until the campaign is over & I wish I had documented more of my experiences on my blog.  It has been eye-opening running this “grassroots” campaign & I’m sure after February 27, I will blog extensively about the experience.

From Day 1, I have been knocking on the doors of Scarborough-Agincourt residents not only asking them to vote for me, but to chat about their experiences, ideas, and concerns around education. This has been the foundation of my campaign.  We talk about student support, parental involvement and community consultation in broad terms but what do those truly mean?

My platform has refined and continues to refine on Scarborough-Agincourt’s diverse needs. I know this list will grow & change.  Yet one thing is for sure. Our newcomer students are in desperate need of additional support in our schools.

I have spoken openly about continuing to advocate for more of our allocated ESL dollars to be spent on ESL.  However, newcomer students need more than ESL.  Newcomer families need more than translations and services that help them understand our school system.  Newcomers need more than referrals.

I can write chapters about the experiences of our newcomer families here in Scarborough-Agincourt, seriously.  & I will share this openly and vocally as Trustee.  Though imagine, these families and these students have limited access to support specifically because language is in and of itself a barrier. Specific to this campaign, these newcomers do not even have the opportunity to vote to support a candidate who can advocate for their children.

Newcomer families in Scarborough-Agincourt have no vote but their voices are dying to be heard.

Who will listen? Who will take action?

Eye opening, I tell you.

Exploring race & assumptions – initial work & reflections

I’ve spent the past 4 weeks immersed in a Grade 3 classroom, and while I would like to blog more generally about the experience, this post is about an isolated, introductory activity in anti-discriminatory education.

I began to plan some instruction and learning regarding Aboriginal Education and anti-discriminatory education.  The students, with the host teacher, had been immersed in a “Pioneers” unit for the past 2 months with brief mentions of the Aboriginals/Natives who lived in the land we now call Canada well before any of these early settlers.  In teaching the “Aboriginal” side to the unit (I have huge objections to the curricular and instructional divide in the first place, but that’s another discussion in and of itself!), I wanted the students to embark on an exploration and understanding of contemporary Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples.  I wanted to address our ideas about Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples within our own Canadian/Toronto context.

So I began by getting students to brainstorm, draw, and/or write about their ideas of Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples today. The verbal prompt was “When you hear the words ‘Native people(s) in Canada today’, what do you think of? What comes to mind?”

Here are 3 examples of students’ responses:

The students expressed a range of responses – everything from socially awkward encounters to notions of dark skin, hunting, living in teepees, using bows and arrows for tools, wearing animal loin cloths and red feathers.

Afterwards, I told the students that we were going to watch a video about a First Nations boy who lives in Toronto today.  The clip, roughly 20 or so minutes is entitled “Positively Native” from the Many Voices (1991) television series from TVOntario (a resource I strongly recommend for Ontario/Canadian educators for diversity/anti-discriminatory education). I didn’t do much questioning or prompting in terms of how to interpret or analyze the video, as I wanted to see what the students would get out of it.  We did a short whole class discussion, where students started to compare what they thought prior to and after the video regarding Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples today.  I wanted them to write down their thoughts right away without too much group analysis or instruction/guiding on my end.  The prompt was “After watching the video, have your ideas changed? Would you change on your brainstorm?”

Here are the same three students’ written responses after watching the video:

The students then went home for the day and I didn’t get around to looking at these responses until a few days later. I was both surprised in good ways and shocked in uncomfortable and unsettling ways with the range of responses.  The third example is that ideal – the student is able to compare previous, preconceived notions to one’s informed state.  The 2nd example shows some evidence of this thoughtful reflection, with some minor misconceptions remaining (tapping of mouth was not discussed as a “call” but rather a stereotype and derogatory action by others).  The first one was one of the shockers.  Despite learning about a young boy around their own age who was living in the same city, despite learning of his story of being bullied, despite seeing ignorant, misguided, and uninformed mass media portrayals & assumptions of his cultural heritage and practices… nothing has changed to alter this student’s perspective of who “Natives” are.  This specific example is most troubling to me – by getting to know one Native, the student has now made sweeping generalizations, that “I already knew about Natives because I knew someone who was Native… she was in my class.  She was very quiet but sometimes disturbing.”

Given the time restrictions of the course, I did not have the opportunity to revisit this particular lesson, but we did spend time Skyping with First Nations students from New Zealand and well as letter (with pictures) writing/sharing with a class on a fly-in reserve in Manitoba.  Here the students spoke directly to/saw these students – recognizing they act, talk, dress, and live very similar to us, that they are not as “foreign” or “different” as they imagine.

After all is said and done, what remains with me is an unsettling feeling.  As an educator, I must prioritize anti-discriminatory education.  The variance in the developments (or stagnation) of these students’ perspectives on another culture proves to me that this type of work needs to occur on a daily basis.  I wish I had more than 2 weeks to explore Aboriginal identities/cultures, let alone the students’ own exploration and construction of self-identities.

Thoughts or responses? Please share.